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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Spa after annual SRO press conference…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***Christopher Mies will be in the pole-sitting No. 1 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for the start of the race after co-driver Dries Vanthoor posted a flying lap of 2:18.578 in Super Pole this evening.

***Vanthoor doesn’t expect a Balance of Performance change before the race, despite his lap time being six-tenths faster in Super Pole. The SRO has made post-qualifying BoP changes in the Blancpain GT Series on multiple occasions this year. “I don’t know,” Vanthoor told Sportscar365. “The rest are quite close. There will probably be some brands or teams complaining, but as long as it’s one car, I don’t think they have any reason to change it.”

***Pirelli Circuit Technical Manager Matteo Braga presented Vanthoor with a special tire following the post-Super Pole press conference. The tire is engraved with the logo of the 70th edition of the race.

***Black Falcon’s No. 6 Mercedes-AMG GT3, entered in the Silver Cup, missed most of yesterday’s running after a crash during Free Practice. It failed to qualify last night but was out on track for warmup this evening.

***The No. 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3, which crashed during warmup preventing it from setting a time in Super Pole, should be OK for tomorrow’s race. Most of the damage was to the bodywork while the chassis remains in good condition.

***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel said that work still needs to be done on the criteria for GT3 manufacturers scoring points in the newly announced ‘World Challenge’ title. Further details will be revealed in September during the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season finale in Barcelona.

“We need to find the right balance,” Ratel said. “If everybody scores points… You see Mercedes, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, they all have 50-60 cars [worldwide]. Bentley [or other small manufacturers] wouldn’t have a chance. That’s not what we want.”

***A number of other announcements were made Friday during the SRO’s annual press conference, including confirmation of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series and Pirelli World Challenge schedules, the revival of the GT2 name for a new SRO-run category and the addition of a new nine-hour race at Kyalami for the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

***In the first major change since under SRO ownership, Blancpain GT Series race director Alain Adam has been named the new race director for the Pirelli World Challenge GT races next year.

***The GT4 European Championship will feature two endurance rounds next year, with three-hour races set for Paul Ricard and Spa. The expanded seven-round calendar will be run exclusively on Blancpain GT weekends.

***A new German GT4 championship, run in association with ADAC, will launch in 2019, replacing the GT4 Central European Cup. A pilot race will take place at Hockenheim on the season finale DTM weekend this year.

***All driver lineups in Blancpain GT Series Asia, meanwhile, must include at least one Asian driver, with the newly separated GT4 class set to exclusively feature Asian nationals or residents.

***Korea International Circuit has replaced Ningbo on the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Asia calendar.

***Ratel indicated that the 24 Hours of Spa will be exclusive to GT3 cars in the future, following the low turnout of two Cup cars this year. “I don’t think we will continue with Group National,” he said. “This is the biggest GT3 race in the world and we don’t need to mix any GT4.”

***Bas Leinders is on-site working as a driver advisor. The Belgian is normally in charge of 3Y Technology’s Blancpain GT Sprint Cup and GT4 European Series programs after leaving Garage 59 last year.

***While recently retired from the factory team, Bentley Motorsport director Brian Gush says that Guy Smith has been made available to customer outfits. “He retired but he hasn’t missed a race since he retired,” Gush told Sportscar365. “He’s going to be here and at the moment he’s talking to customers… It’s early days but that’s where we see it going. He sees it that way as well.”

***Montaplast by Land Motorsport has yet to decide whether it will contest the California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in October. The German squad took part in last year’s race as an Audi Sport-backed operation, although the German manufacturer has yet to declare its supported teams for the IGTC season finale.

***Peter Baron, who is calling race strategy for the Land squad this weekend, has returned to Spa for the first time since 2012 when he ran Starworks Motorsport’s HPD ARX-03b, which went onto score the LMP2 World Championship that year.

***Another veteran race strategist, Thomas Blam, is working with Black Swan Racing this weekend. Blam, who currently calls race strategy on the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, is a co-owner of Flying Lizard Motorsports and team strategist at K-PAX Racing.

***Erik Peterson, who called strategy on the GT Daytona class-winning Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, is working the race with the Austrian squad.

***Audi is displaying its Intercontinental GT Challenge trophy outside its hospitality unit alongside a selection of cars including GT3 and GT4 variants of the R8 LMS and an RS 3 LMS WTCR car.

***Former co-workers and friends of Dave Maraj assembled for a group photo in front of the Audi hospitality unit to pay tribute to Maraj, who unexpectedly died last weekend. The Champion Racing owner campaigned Audis in the American Le Mans Series from 2001-08, while also being the most recent American team to have claimed overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 2005.

***Robin Frijns explained that a last-minute call-up to replace Mattias Ekstrom in DTM was the cause of his conflicting full-season plans in the German series and Blancpain GT. He has missed four Blancpain GT rounds because of DTM clashes but says he is “really happy” with his situation. “I’m enjoying my time in DTM, with Abt and the team I’m in. I’m having fun, and that’s the most important thing for me,” he said.

***This weekend is the first Blancpain GT race Frijns has competed in since Monza in April, despite initially being confirmed for both the Endurance and Sprint Cups. 

***Broadcast veteran Bob Varsha has joined the official SRO TV team for the race, alongside Martin Haven, Ben Constanduros and full-season commentators David Addison, John Watson and Dakota Jane. 

***Coverage begins Saturday at 4 p.m. CEST, with uninterrupted coverage available on the GT World Youtube channel (geo-blocked in North America), in Europe and Motor Trend on Demand in the U.S. CBS Sports Network will air highlights of the race on Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT.

Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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